June 8, 2021
On Sunday evening four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, were brutally killed because of their faith and ethnicity. One young child survived what has been called a premeditated attack. This was a horrific act of Islamophobia and white supremacist violence. We grieve with our Muslim and South Asian colleagues, friends and community members and extend our condolences to the family.
The Afzaal family was well known in the Pakistani-Muslim community. A friend said: “They were the most loving, caring and genuine family and would always greet you with a smile.” We’d like to share with you some things we have learned about the family that was murdered. Relatives said the Afzaal family “were always there giving and participating in spreading goodness”. Salman Afzaal, 46, was a physiotherapist and active member of the community in London, Ontario, often seen at local cricket matches or at the mosque. His wife, Madiha Salman, 44, was a PhD student in Civil Engineering at Western University. She stated in her linked-in profile that she wanted to work on “geo-environmental issues” and “contribute towards reclamation of our natural environment.” A friend said the couple “made you feel like the centre of the world.” Their daughter Yumna Salman, 15, was a student in grade 9 at Oakridge Secondary School. Yumna was an artist. Yumna had designed, drawn and painted a mural in the basement of her elementary school, which will now be a part of her legacy, school officials said. At Oakridge, Yumna was set to be asked to be a Grade 10 representative on the Muslim Students Association. The family’s grandmother, 74, was described as a ‘pillar’ in the community. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, a shy third grader, survived the attack and is in the hospital right now with serious injuries. This is the online fundraising account approved by the family you can donate to.
Three generations of one family were killed on Sunday while out for an evening walk. They were waiting to cross an intersection when a truck mounted the curb and ran them over because they were Muslim and because they were Brown.
The extended Afzaal family has released a statement which includes: “We need to understand that the destruction of a family in a brutal and horrific manner like this is something we must all stand against. We need to stand against hate and Islamophobia and raise awareness in our communities and throughout the political spectrum.”
This vile act of hatred did not occur in a vacuum. We must confront and challenge all forms of Islamophobia that have been normalized for too long in Canada. The backdrop to this weekend’s horrific act of violence is well known to us: the endless ‘war on terror’ that has been waged in the Middle East, the niqab ban in Quebec, federal legislation that attacks racialized Black and Brown Muslims and refugees, including the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act as well as anti-terror legislation such as Security Certificates and Bill C51.
OCADFA has reached out to the OCADU Muslim Student Association (MSA) and will work with them to amplify their forthcoming events and messaging. For now, the MSA has shared this:
What we request is support regarding hate against minorities in this country. We ask you to amplify any messages you see regarding it so it can reach more voices and show people we do not stand for any form of hate/ violence within Canada.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims was one of the first respondents on the scene and have been fighting for justice for this family. An emergency meeting has been held by them today regarding petitions, donations, and other ways to show support and solidariy. They are holding a live vigil tonight that can be attended virtually via Facebook.
Below is the link to the the London Muslim Mosque’s Facebook page, where the vigil will be livestreamed:
OCADFA recognizes this individual act of violence was fed and fuelled by the growing crisis of white supremacist heteropatriarchal colonial violence in our society. As an association we are committed to confronting and challenging it. We will use our resources to organize against it as educators, artists & designers and as allies with our Muslim colleagues, family members and community.